Microsoft's take on the next generation Internet: Extract from Microsoft's .NET white paper

Today's Web does little more than serve up individual pages to individual users - pages that mostly present HTML ‘pictures' of data, but not the data itself (at present, making both available is too technically demanding for most Web sites).

To access your online information, e-mail, offline files and other data, you have to struggle with multiple (and often incompatible) interfaces, varying levels of data access, and only intermittent synchronisation of all the information you need (such as when you physically link your device with your PC). These problems are multiplied if you use more than one PC or mobile device.

For the Web developer, the tools to build, test and deploy engaging Web sites are hopelessly inadequate. Many focus more on building attractive rather than useful Web sites. None of them address the entire software lifecycle, from design to development to deployment to maintenance, in a way that is consistent and efficient. No system today lets developers write code for the PC and deploy it to a variety of devices.

Corporate users face additional challenges. While farms of smaller servers have made computing more reliable by eliminating single points of failure, this change has made system management more complex. Performance measurement, capacity planning and operations management are challenging with today's multitier, multifunction Web sites. New e-commerce systems rarely map well or interoperate with legacy business systems. And building systems that securely span the firewall, so customers and partners can intelligently engage with your business, is so difficult that many businesses resort to costly duplicate systems.

The fundamental idea behind Microsoft .NET is that the focus is shifting from individual Web sites or devices connected to the Internet, to constellations of computers, devices and services that work together to deliver broader, richer solutions.

Microsoft .NET will see HTML-based presentation augmented by programmable XML-based information. XML is a widely supported industry standard defined by the World Wide Web Consortium. It was developed with extensive input from Microsoft but is not a proprietary Microsoft technology. XML provides a means of separating actual data from the presentational view of that data. This offers a way to distribute data in useful ways to a variety of digital devices, allow Web sites to collaborate, and provide a constellation of interacting Web services .

Microsoft .NET comprises the Microsoft .NET platform, Microsoft .NET products and services and Third-party .NET services. The .NET platform includes infrastructure and tools required to build and operate a new generation of services, the .NET User Experience to enable rich clients; .NET building block services; and software for smart Internet devices.

Also to come are Windows.NET (integrated building block services), MSN.NET (expected to be provided in Australia via nineMSN); personal subscription services (for applications), Office.NET; Visual Studio.NET (which automatically generates XML code) new BizTalk Orchestration tools for visual programming of business processes; the bCentral portal for .NET.

The core Microsoft .NET building block services include:

* Identity - Building on Microsoft Passport and Windows authentication technology, provides levels of authentication ranging from passwords and wallets to smart cards and biometric devices.

* Notification and Messaging - Integrates instant messaging, e-mail, fax, voicemail and other forms of notification and messaging into a unified experience, delivered to any PC or smart device. Builds on the Hotmail Web-based e-mail service, Exchange and Instant Messenger.

* Personalisation - Lets users create rules and preferences that define how notifications and messages should be handled.

* XML Store - Uses a universal language (XML) and protocol (SOAP) to describe what data means, enabling data to maintain its integrity when transmitted and handled by multiple Web sites and users. The result is that Web sites become flexible services that can interact, and exchange and leverage each other's data. Microsoft .NET also offers a secure, addressable place to store data on the Web. Each of your devices can access this, optimally replicating data for efficiency and offline use. Other services can access your store with your consent. Brings together elements of NTFS, SQL Server, Exchange and MSN Communities.

* Calendar - A basis for securely and privately integrating work, social, and home calendars so that they are accessible to all of an end user's devices and, with consent, other services and individuals. Builds on the Outlook messaging and collaboration client and the Hotmail Calendar.

* Directory and Search - Microsoft .NET makes it possible to find services and people with which to interact. Microsoft .NET directories will interact programmatically with services to answer specific schema-based questions about the capabilities of those services.

* Dynamic Delivery - Enables Microsoft and developers to dynamically offer incremental levels of functionality and reliable automatic upgrades on demand, without user installation or configuration.

The Microsoft .NET User Experience offers Intelligent Interactivity via:

* Natural Interface - Technologies that enable the next generation of interactions between humans and computers - including speech, vision, handwriting and natural-language input via a new ‘type-in' box.

* Universal Canvas - Builds upon XML schema to transform the Internet from a read-only environment into a read/write platform, enabling users to interactively create, browse, edit, annotate and analyse multiple sources of information.

* Information Agent - Manages your identity and persona over the Internet and provides greater control of how Web sites and services interact with you. Maintains your history, context and preferences - your past, present and future on the Internet. Supports privacy-enabling technologies such as P3P.

* SmartTags - Extends IntelliSense technology to Web content, enabling PCs and devices to be smart about handling information from the Internet.

This white paper is available at www.microsoft.com/presspass/topics/f2k/whitepaper/default.asp

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